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Man strangled wife after trying to kill her with poison and shower head, court hears

PUBLISHED: 13:54 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:59 16 January 2020

A murder investigation was launched after a woman in her 80s was found dead at Grays Fair Court care home in New Costessey. Picture Peter Walsh.

A murder investigation was launched after a woman in her 80s was found dead at Grays Fair Court care home in New Costessey. Picture Peter Walsh.

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A retired army officer strangled his wife to death after attempts to kill her with rat poison and a shower head failed, a court has heard.

The home in Mill Street, Buxton where Doreen and Mick Virgo lived. Photo: SubmitThe home in Mill Street, Buxton where Doreen and Mick Virgo lived. Photo: Submit

Doreen Virgo, 89, was found dead at the Grays Fair Court care home at Dereham Road in Costessey on Friday, July 12 last year.

Her husband Mick Virgo, 81, with whom she lived in Mill Street, Buxton, was charged with her murder following a Home Office post-mortem examination which showed Mrs Virgo had died from compression of the neck.

The court heard claims he acted as part of an agreement between the pair to end their lives.

Jurors at Ipswich Court have already been told that due to his dementia Virgo is "not mentally capable of participating in a conventional trial" or pleading guilty or not guilty to the offence. They will instead be asked to determine whether or not he did the act and killed his wife.

Mill Street in Buxton. Pic: Peter WalshMill Street in Buxton. Pic: Peter Walsh

Peter Gair, opening the prosecution case on Thursday, January 16, said Mrs Virgo, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and could no longer knit, was taken to the care home about a month before her death, following a fall.

He said that she was found with a pillow over her face at the home on the evening of July 12 last year.

Staff realised something was not right and removed the pillow, but realised she was dead.

The victim had a laceration on her head and a blue substance, later discovered to be rat poison, on her clothing, with opened packets of poison also found in the room.

Mr Gair said a shower head had been used to strike Mrs Virgo on the head, and was found under a pillow.

But while the victim did have traces of rat poison in her stomach, it "played no part in the cause of her death", the court heard, and neither did the laceration on her head.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she died as a result of manual strangulation.

Mr Gair said it was the crown's case that Virgo had caused these injuries and killed his wife, "initially by an attempt to poison her".

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He said it was followed by an attempt to hit her and when that did not work, "finally there's a decision taken to strangle her to ensure that she died".

Mr Gair said there was "no evidence of any sign of a struggle by Doreen" adding jurors may well conclude that she was "compliant in all of this and knew what was going on and took no steps to prevent it happening".

Following the discovery of the body Mr Gair said Virgo was found by police on Thorpe Road, Norwich, at about 9pm.

He was stopped in Ber Street and found to have "blue staining" around his mouth. He admitted he had taken rat poison and was taken to hospital under police guard.

While in hospital, Virgo made a number of statements which were heard by police officers, including saying that the "victim is not the victim, she's my wife" and that she "did not want to live in this situation" adding they "had an agreement".

Another officer heard him say "we got Doreen away from her pain and that's the main aim".

He was also heard to say "my wife was taken ill, and was getting worse and worse so I killed her", the court heard.

Virgo was subsequently seen by psychiatrists including by forensic psychiatrist, Dr Philip Joseph.

He told Dr Joseph they had discussed when "the time had come for one of us to die" and how he would help and then kill himself.

Virgo had revealed to the psychiatrist that they had discussed the agreement and how she had been "pleading with me to do it".

The jury of eight women and four men previously heard the couple moved to Norfolk from London in 1980 and settled in Buxton, where they ran an antiques shop until 1991.

Mr Gair said Virgo, who survived cancer but suffered from diabetes and had become more forgetful, had written to his cousin following his wife's death and said: "Doreen and I had a wonderful life but I'm sad to say that Doreen became so unwell that we decided together to end our lives."

He added that he "missed her more than anything in life".

Ian James, representing Virgo, did not offer any evidence for the defence but did indicate he would be providing a closing speech tomorrow.

The trial continues.


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